The Farmstead Promise
Asheville Farmstead School exists to foster experiences that unearth the connection between nature, people, and sustainable food sources. By celebrating individual diversity, we lay the foundation for the empathy and kindness needed to create a village of life-long learners. Our students learn skills to develop and care for the Earth, their fellow humans, and their own education.
We envision a community where each time a child engages with nature, nature teaches the child in a way that sparks curiosity and cultivates respect. Every time an adult connects with a child, the child teaches the adult about patience, play, and wonder. Together, these life-long learners benefit from our community and appreciate the intrinsic value of the Earth.
Asheville Farmstead is honored to be stewards of a 25-acre tract of land in a peaceful cove of Candler, NC. When you drive up to the farm, you will look out over the permaculture-inspired garden, chicken coop, Fortville, and field. Behind the field, sits our stone-built schoolhouse and yard. The schoolhouse is only used when the weather prevents us from being outdoors but is complete with a craft room, student-directed learning living room, peaceful room, and a naturally lit kitchen. The schoolyard is home to dirt kitchen, pine play, an in-ground trampoline, nature ninja course, creek kitchen, greenhouse, and more! Beyond the schoolyard lies the forested cove, with a creek, a spring, trails that lead all the way to the ridgeline, as well as our Littlest Learners outdoor classroom.
As we grow together, this place will benefit from the imagination of creative minds and the dedication of little hands. We will continue to mark trails, build forts and treehouses, turn over rocks, stack logs, change water patterns, pull up old plants, and install new ones, all while learning about the earth and each other.
Forest School Movement
The forest school movement focuses on outdoor play and environmental stewardship through nature immersion. The forest school movement was founded in Scandinavia, and one of the first forest schools in the United States was Cedarsong Nature School in Washington State. Time is spent outdoors, no matter the weather, with the mantra being “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” (or being ill-prepared). The children learn resiliency and appreciation for all seasons by spending time outside in all weather, including colder temperatures and precipitation.
One of the main pillars of the forest school philosophy is that the learning is child-led, with no predetermined curriculum. The children use their sense of wonder, imagination, and group cooperation to guide lessons the teachers provide. Through this, the children develop a deeper sense of ownership over the place they play in and the topics they learn.
The benefits of nature-immersed learning are cognitive, social, and physical. With no set curriculum, the children develop creative and imaginative skills. Conflict resolution is often left to the children, with educators only stepping with guidance when needed. Children work together to solve problems and develop strategies in their play, showing cooperation. Successes improve self-esteem and self-motivation. Climbing, balancing, building, and hiking all engage and strengthen motor skills. Risk is a big part of being in nature, and children learn to identify and manage risk through forest schooling. Being outside develops a stronger immune system and the active lifestyle keeps children healthier.
With the growth of technology, we are seeing children spend more and more time inside in front of screens. Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” provides mounting research of the ill-effects of children not spending enough time in nature – i.e. Nature-Deficit Disorder. Forest schooling provides early interactions with nature that will foster a connection to and develop compassion for nature that is likely to last a lifetime. The forest school philosophy believes that providing these opportunities for children in their younger formative years will help build a future population of resilient, self-thinking, healthy, and empathetic environmental stewards.
Founder, Executive Director, Educator
Lauren is the founder, Executive Director, and is an educator at the Asheville Farmstead School. In the years leading up to founding Asheville Farmstead School, Lauren Brown taught middle school science for a nonprofit boarding school. She was a founding teacher of the middle school program and an integral advocate for the middle school's yearly experiential education trips. Prior to her work at the boarding school, Lauren was involved in a two-year Master of Education program through the University of Washington and a non-profit organization called IslandWood.
Year one of her Master's degree program was held at IslandWood, where Lauren taught environmental education to third and fourth-grade students from the greater Seattle area. While teaching, Lauren was also taking graduate courses that ranged from classroom management to nonprofit management, and child psychology to educational philosophy. Upon completion of the first year of the Islandwood program, Lauren received a certificate in Environment, Education, and Community (2011). Before her second year of graduate school, Lauren was a lead instructor for IslandWood’s summer camp program, where she led groups of campers ages 3-14 in a wide range of nature-based activities. During the second year of the graduate program, Lauren completed her Master in Science Education from the University of Washington, while concurrently working for Homewaters, a non-profit program that brings outdoor science investigation activities to elementary schools in the Seattle area.
Lauren is gifted at speaking with kids in a language that they understand, with clear, direct instruction, and boundless joy. She enjoys spontaneous adventures and opportunities to go outside and experience everything nature can offer. Lauren has a passion for travel; she has been to over 17 countries and aims to visit every National Park in the USA.
Lauren is also a passionate advocate of lifelong learning, has maintained a Wilderness First Responder certification through NOLS since 2012. In December 2017 she received a certification in the Cedarsong Way of Forest Kindergarten Teaching, with Erin Kenny and is now a board officer for the nonprofit running the Cedarsong Way. Lauren has been trained in Love and Logic and takes yearly refresher classes. In June 2018 Lauren was presented with the annual Natural Wonder award by the Eastern Region Association of Forest And Nature Schools (ERAFANS) while she was presenting and attending their annual conference. Lauren is an active member of the Board of Directors for The Cedarsong Way as well as the American Forest Kindergarten Association. In 2019 Lauren was recognized as Alumni of the year from the preschool she attends and inspires a lot of her work today, The Children's Garden School.
Frank Andrews was born in Fairfield, California. His favorite activity as a child was to spend time outdoors investigating the plants and animals around his home such as the Blue Oak and the California Newt. This sparked his interest in the study of living things which lead him to study biology in college. Frank received a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Linfield College. His course work covered the fundamental principles of biology with a more detailed study of plants and insects. Frank participated in a research study of the non-native ant genus Tetramorium, in which time he learned about insect anatomy and evolutionary history. His favorite insects are ants, bees, butterflies, and dragonflies. Much of his coursework also focused on the diversity and anatomy of flowering plants.
Frank worked in the butterfly habitat at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California. The habitat allowed guests to see butterflies and moths from tropical regions of places such as South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Here Frank learned about the details of lepidopteran (fancy science lingo for moths and butterflies) metamorphosis while caring for developing pupae and adults. More importantly, it is where he discovered the joy of sharing his passion for biology with others and decided to pursue the field of education.
Frank spent four years working at a boarding high school in a rural area of Utah. Frank was a dorm parent where he served as the caretaker and guardian of around 40 students and gained experience helping adolescents with their social/emotional development.
Frank then moved back to California where he spent time training to be a high school biology teacher. He struggled with the inequity and artificial nature of the public high school setting. This lead him to the Farmstead where he could share his love of science and nature in a setting that allows for it to be experienced first-hand. Frank is so excited to be an Educator for the Farmstead in both Sprouts and Littlest Learners!
Lead Sprouts Educator
Hillary grew up in Birmingham, AL. Growing up, she spent a lot of time outdoors with her family camping and hiking.
She went to Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL, where she earned a degree in psychology. She found a way to combine her love of the outdoors and working with youth by accepting a job with Second Nature Blue Ridge. Over the five years she worked there, she took youth backpacking, taught them about local plants, and helped them learn life skills.
In the summers, Hillary would work at Camp Nakanawa in Tennessee. She loved spending time with the girls and teaching them how to canoe on the lake.
Most recently, Hillary has been working at a local preschool and enjoying spending time with the kids doing crafts, and singing songs. In her free time, Hillary can be found hiking, camping, or exploring rivers with her two kids and her two dogs.
Lead Littlest Learners Educator
I was born in Massachusetts, but have lived half of my life in North Carolina. I went to college in Wilmington at the University of NC Wilmington. I received my BS in marine biology. The ocean is one of my biggest passions and loves in this world. One day I will be reunited, but for now I have found another passion (teaching!) that has me excited to wake up and work each day! Being outside has always been a huge part of who I am. Whether it is swimming in the ocean, hiking in the mountains, or just identifying plants in my backyard. I have always known that my career needed to be centered around being in nature. Working with children just happened naturally. I love kids and instantly fell in love with teaching in college. When I started working for a local nonprofit teaching children how to garden, I figured out what I was meant to do. Gardening is a huge passion of mine and I believe it is so important to teach our future generations how to grow food. It is a very important skill that has become lost in the hustle of todays’ society.
I spend my days off hiking, mountain biking, identifying plants and mushrooms, doing yoga, creating art, camping, and loving on my cat Petunia, bunny Walnut, and dog Ziggy! Did I mention that I love all animals? I also enjoy learning about our native flora and fauna and strive to learn something new every day. I am passionate about our planet and taking care of it. Children are the future and it is our job to educate them on the importance of preserving and protecting our beautiful planet!
Alyssa is our part-time educator. She has spent her life living in North Carolina. She was born in the small town of Tarboro in the eastern part of the state and came to the mountains to start her Master's. She's been amazed by the differences in the areas she's lived. Alyssa has also been fortunate to travel to several states and a few countries. And would like to do more traveling.
As a child, Alyssa spent time playing in the woods and fields at her great grandparent's home. She would help them pick fruits and vegetables and especially enjoyed eating scuppernong grapes straight off the vine there with her cousins. She felt excitement when finding rollie pollies and doodlebugs and other creatures. Alyssa has been grateful for the connection she has had with nature as an adult and appreciates the importance of being close to the ground and having a child-like curiosity. She enjoys gardening and foraging which has fostered her mycology (study of fungi) passion. Her current home is nestled in a wooded area and she sometimes enjoys walking barefoot in the moss surrounding her home and discovers something new each time she's outdoors. Her sweet husky, Audrey, often joins for these adventures.
Along with being an educator, Alyssa is a therapist. She received her Master's of Social Work from Western Carolina University, which allowed her to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and provide therapy through organizations in community, school, home, and hospital settings. She now has a small private practice and hopes to implement more nature-based therapies in her work there.
Before deciding to study social work, Alyssa gained a bachelor's in mass communications with a concentration in journalism and public relations. She worked in a day treatment program with children and adolescents in a school setting, where she was able to support youths in gaining social-emotional skills and promote success in the classroom. She has also worked with families providing intensive therapy to encourage harmony within their home and community. Alyssa has provided mental health and case management support to those experiencing crisis in a hospital setting. Throughout the past 15 years, Alyssa has provided childcare for several children ranging from infancy to early adolescence. She has also spent time volunteering with different organizations, which gave her the opportunity to provide educational support and mentorship to children.
She is excited to be a part of our team!
Garden Educator and Manager of Rainbow Ridge Garden
Raised in Northeastern Indiana, Michelle Gualandi moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina to attend college. Little did she know 20 years later she’d still call the area home. She and her husband put roots down in Candler, NC a community they love, got some chickens, welcomed an adventurous, sweet little boy to their lives, and continue to work towards creating a sustainable lifestyle for their family.
All of her educational backgrounds were focused on Fine Art with an emphasis in Art History and Ceramics. While in school, Michelle supported herself through working in the thriving Asheville food and beverage industry. And to ground herself she has been gardening, weeding and starting seeds are two of her favorite activities. Her first garden was a small stone circle at a rental house in East Asheville with her husband and their dogs. That hobby continued to weave its way through her life, moving from a hobby to a way to feed her family and neighbors. When their son was born both Michelle and her husband realized that showing him a sustainable way of life was a top priority. The first garden at their “homestead” was ridiculously large, full of weeds, tomato blight, and bugs. But from those failures plans were hatched and successes were had. The great outdoors is where you will find her family, whether working or enjoying together.
Working part-time on a small local organic flower farm has given Michelle an even broader understanding of farming on a small production scale. She cannot wait to put that knowledge to work in the gardens of the Farmstead. She joined the Farmstead in late winter 2020 as the Garden Manager for Rainbow Ridge Gardens. She is thrilled to be connecting children to nature and the garden, growing garden goodies to sell at the Enka Candler Tailgate Market, and furthering the mission of the Farmstead to help create a sustainable community in WNC.
Enka-Candler Tailgate Market Manager
Laura Torres has been on the marketing team at the Farmstead for a few years. She has a rich background in marketing and management and now market management! Laura also has a degree in Anthropology from UNC Greensboro and loves to hear peoples' stories so please feel free to stop by the market during the season to chat!
When Laura isn't at market, she's working on a yurt build with her family in Waynesville. Laura is excited to develop this alternative housing project into a small farm to create a more sustainable and natural lifestyle.
Laura's energetic and organized approach to managing our tailgate market is sure to take the market to new heights and help further a sense of community among the wonderful people in the Candler area.
Garden Manager of Rainbow Ridge Garden
Bio to come!
The Farm Dog
Nugget is a three-year-old Australian Cattle Dog (Red Heeler), mix and he is part of our everyday learning! The children love Nugget, and Nugget lives for the children and the Farmstead. He is kept current on all of his immunizations with the Pet Vet on Patton Avenue. According to the Westminster Kennel Club, "Their intelligence and ability to "problem-solve" guarantee the Australian Cattle Dog excel in herding, obedience, agility, or as a vital family member.
Nugget is also Lauren's registered Emotional Support Animal (ESA), through the National Service Animal Registry(NSAR) (ID: D444500). An ESA provides companionship and comfort to a person to help minimize the impacts of emotional hardships. NSAR requires the dog to be able to pass the Public Access Test, which confirms the dog can; walk beside its handler on a leash without straining against the leash, sit on command, come when called, lie down on command, and show no aggression toward humans or other animals when unprovoked.
His favorite activities around the Farmstead include; greeting his friends, chasing his frisbee, joining his friends on a forest adventure, and being there for his friends when they are sad, or get hurt. When he is not working at the Farmstead, Nugget enjoys truck rides, sleeping in sunny spots, and 'pre-washing' pots and pans for his mom!
Cedarsong Way Accredited School
Asheville Farmstead School is proud to be one of four internationally accredited Cedarsong® Way Schools.
The Cedarsong Way is an award-winning leader in the U.S. Forest Kindergarten movement and has received international accolades for its groundbreaking work.Schools that are accredited in The Cedarsong Way have proven to be operating at the same high level of excellence as the original Cedarsong Nature School.
The Cedarsong Way accreditation is your assurance of the best quality outdoor education program. Learn more about The Cedarsong Way and our philosophies.